|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General in Brussels
The Secretary-General today opened the pledging conference in Brussels for the African Union Mission in Sudan, saying that the meeting is intended to ensure that the African Union has the resources it needs to carry out its critical work in Darfur. “The lives of many thousands of children, women and men may depend on the outcome of our efforts,” he said.
The Secretary-General talked about the precious window of opportunity to end the cruel conflict in Darfur. “No hidden agenda drives us,” he said, “only the urgent needs of Darfur’s people”. Beyond the support for the current African Union Mission, he said that a UN peacekeeping force should come to Darfur, “not as occupiers, but as helpers”. We have that speech upstairs.
The Secretary-General also took part in the political segment of the Darfur pledging conference and a working luncheon hosted by European Union High Representative Javier Solana prior to attending the pledging session.
While in Brussels, the Secretary-General spoke to reporters to emphasize the need for concrete action to deal with the crisis in the Middle East and for a cessation of hostilities there. He spoke about his proposal for a stabilization force in Lebanon, saying, in response to questions, that he would expect a force that is larger than the 2,000-member UN Interim Force in Lebanon, with a different concept of operations and different capabilities. The Security Council, he said, will have to discuss this and define the specific mandate for such a force.
In a joint press encounter with Javier Solana, the Secretary-General emphasized, “The situation is very urgent, and it is imperative that the international community acts to end the fighting.”
We have the transcripts of his press encounters upstairs, including one following a meeting with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
** Middle East
Also on the Middle East, the high-level UN delegation to the Middle East, headed by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, today, met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other senior Israeli officials. They presented concrete ideas on how to resolve the current crisis and reach an end of hostilities; those ideas were also presented to the Lebanese Government over the past two days.
The delegation today met first with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni. They then met Prime Minister Olmert’s Chief-of-Staff, Yoram Turbovitz, and his Diplomatic Adviser, Shalom Turgeman, and the Prime Minister himself joined that meeting for about half an hour. After the meeting with the Foreign Minister, Terje Roed-Larsen, one of the members of the UN delegation told reporters that “we had good, intensive and productive talks”. He said the team will continue its dialogue with both Lebanese and Israeli interlocutors, and asserted that the Secretary-General and his team are working very hard on specific ideas to get us out of the current crisis. We have his statement upstairs.
The team is travelling to Gaza this afternoon, where it intends to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon says that, while heavy exchanges of fire continue along the Blue Line, all its positions in its area of operation are permanently occupied and maintained by UN troops. There were 15 incidents of firing close to UNIFIL positions, the Mission says, and a position close to the village of Marwahin suffered one direct hit from the Israeli side causing material damage, but no injuries.
On the humanitarian front, the UN Mission continued to cooperate closely with the Lebanese authorities, and they decided to set up a joint coordination centre for humanitarian activities in Tyre, in the western sector, and Marjayoun, in the eastern sector.
Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has informed us that a four-person humanitarian team is headed to the region –- including to Lebanon and to Damascus –- to help coordinate the humanitarian response on the ground. Also, we expect to launch a flash appeal for Lebanon early next week.
**UN Staff in Lebanon
As the situation in Lebanon persists, the safety and security of UN personnel has become an even bigger concern for the Organization, and we have initiated contingency planning for evacuating non-essential staff and dependents of staff members. So far, all UN staff and their dependents are accounted for, with the exception of one staff member and his spouse. All efforts are being deployed to locate them. Two staff members are reported wounded, but their lives are not in danger. Meanwhile, arrangements are also being made to ensure the continuity of the UNIFIL key functions.
And we’ll update you on this as the information reaches us.
In news on Iraq, the UN Mission for Iraq has issued its latest bimonthly report on human rights in Iraq, which expresses the hope that the new Government of national unity can forcefully address urgent human rights concerns. While welcoming recent positive steps by the Government to promote national reconciliation, the report raises alarm at the growing number of casualties among the civilian population killed or wounded during indiscriminate or targeted attacks, by terrorists and insurgents, as well as militias and criminal groups. Kidnappings of individuals and groups for ransom or political purposes also continued to surge. The report and an accompanying press release are available upstairs.
** Timor Leste
On Timor-Leste, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator there, Finn Reske-Nielsen, says that, the $19.6 million flash appeal issued in June for aid to the country is almost fully funded. Nonetheless, he says that while support for displaced persons was satisfactory for the moment, the “lean” season –- between harvest and during the dry period –- would arrive in September, earlier than usual, and provisions should be made accordingly.
Separately, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Anis Bajwa, today briefed visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard on humanitarian, security and political developments. They also exchanged views on the shape and role of a new UN mission, currently being planned for the country.
Turning now to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Java, Indonesia, yesterday. Two UN-led assessment missions have gone to hard-hit areas in central and west Java. The teams reported 30,000 people displaced by the twin disasters.
For its part, the World Food Programme is sending two truckloads of food to survivors in West Java, and two additional trucks are on standby. We have more on that upstairs.
**OCHA Humanitarian Appeals
Today in Geneva, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland launched the midyear review of the Humanitarian Appeal for 2006. He said that, six months after the launch of the appeal, the UN and its partners still need more than $3 billion to address the urgent needs of 30 million people in 31 countries worldwide. With $1.7 billion received so far, tens of millions of people have been fed, millions have been vaccinated, and hundreds of thousands have been provided shelter. However, more funds are needed, Egeland said. We have a press release with more information at my office.
On Colombia, the UN Refugee Agency, or UNHCR, reports that it is concerned by escalating violence and forced civilian displacement taking place in Colombia’s Pacific coastal region. More than a thousand people have fled the area since fighting broke out a week ago between the Colombian army and an irregular armed group. UNHCR says it is on the alert for the massive exodus that will likely happen in the next few days, if fighting continues. And we have more on this upstairs.
That’s all I have for you. Yes.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I know that you have answered this question earlier, but, yesterday President Bush was caught on tape telling Mr. Blair, the British Prime Minister, if Kofi Annan would make a phone call, basically to talk to the Syrian President about the situation over there. Has the Secretary-General, since then, talked to the Syrian President? If yes, then what happened? And I’ll have a follow-up.
Associate Spokesman: I don’t know about the Secretary-General’s phone calls for today, but yes, the Secretary-General in recent days has been on the phone with a wide range of officials, including President Basher al-Assad of Syria, as well as other officials, such as the Prime Ministers of Lebanon and of Israel. And, of course, he has also been talking to other officials. As you know, he has just had a joint press encounter with Prime Minister Blair of the United Kingdom, while he was at the G-8 Summit, at which you say these comments were made. And with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with many others, and those discussions continue. So, he is in touch with leaders, both in the region and elsewhere, and he is continuing to press, in particular for the cessation of hostilities, and to discuss the potential need for a stabilization force on the ground.
Question: How much of a pressure can you put on the Syrian President to rein in what he, President Bush, perceived as the Syrian influence on Hizbollah?
Associate Spokesman: I have no specific comment about what President Bush is reported to have said. The point is that the Secretary-General is in contact with people, including people in the region, because he believes that people –- the leaders in the region and elsewhere –- do have a role to play, in working with all the various parties, to calm the situation. And so, he is in touch with them; he is emphasizing the need for calm; he is emphasizing the need for the return of the captured Israeli soldiers; for an end to rocket firing by Hizbollah; for an end to the aerial bombardment by Israel. All of those things do need to take place. There needs to be cessation of hostilities, and, then we are also looking at the possibility of a stabilization force.
Question: You just quoted Mr. Larsen saying that you are working very hard to get out of this crisis. Can you define how hard, and what it is that they are doing, besides what you have said, that they have met with Israeli Prime Minister?
Associate Spokesman: They have been presenting concrete proposals. Part of the point is that the nature of these discussions is delicate enough, is sensitive enough that we can’t really provide much in the way of specifics about what these proposals entail. We certainly received some helpful signs from the Lebanese Government following talks, among others, with the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, and with the Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, and, as I just said right now, there was a range of officials, including Prime Minister Olmert that they met in Israel today and they’ve described those meetings as useful. And, we’ll see where we can go from here.
Question: When is the UN team going to come back to brief the Security Council? Also, is Kofi Annan going to speak to the microphone when he… is he returning tomorrow?
Associate Spokesman: He will be travelling over the course of the day, but in terms of when we expect him back at Headquarters, the first day we expect him back is Thursday, and we’ll ask him whether he can talk to the press. As you know, he has been talking rather extensively. He has had two press encounters, today alone, so he is certainly willing to talk, and we’ll see when we can arrange that.
Question: And in terms of the team coming back to brief the Council, any word on how soon that can happen?
Associate Spokesman: We expect them back toward the end of the week. At this stage, while they are holding their discussions, it is hard to pin down a more precise time, but some time toward the end of the week.
[He later told reporters the team would return to New York on Wednesday.]
Question: And when they return, what sort of format will be there to receive them? Will they go into closed consultations with the Security Council? Will they talk…
Associate Spokesman: You’d have to ask the Security Council President or the Security Council ambassadors about what kind of discussions they’ll have, but we certainly expect them to brief the Security Council on their talks, once they return.
Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: How were the two staff members injured in Lebanon, and how serious is their situation?
Associate Spokesman: These are not life-threatening injuries. One of them was injured by shrapnel during the attack, and the other one, I would need to check on, but I believe that was during a separate incident that’s not related to the aerial bombardment.
Question: There was a report this morning on CNN, I believe, that, in addition to all the various national Governments, the UN is chartering a cruise ship, which was given as the Serenade, to evacuate its personnel from Beirut. Do you know anything about it, or do you have any further details?
Associate Spokesman: In terms of that, we have staff. Actually, a small group of dependents have already left Beirut. Other staff have been evacuated by other ways. In terms of what you are talking about –- this boat –- we do believe that there is a possibility that some staff who are in the city of Tyre in Lebanon might be relocated or evacuated, at a later stage, but, obviously, that’s something that hasn’t happened yet. And there is nothing…
Question: And you don’t know about this boat and you don’t know…
Associate Spokesman: Well, I’d rather not. For security reasons, we don’t try to give the specifics of security details, until we’ve completed certain activities. Like I said, there is the possibility for some evacuation or relocation activity, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
Question: How many personnel have you evacuated so far, and how many personnel do you intend to evacuate?
Associate Spokesman: At this stage, 445 UN staff have been evacuated from Lebanon to safer areas in the region. As for further evacuations, further relocations to other parts of Lebanon, we’ll take those decisions as the security situation merits.
Question: What is the proximity between the Hizbollah forces firing rockets and the United Nations forces on the ground there? Are they close by? Do we have reports about that? And also, have there been reports of any attempts by the UN forces on the ground to speak to Hizbollah to stop firing the rockets?
Associate Spokesman: The UN Interim Force has been in touch, trying to do what it can to get the sides to stop their firing, but, of course, we have also been proceeding with the efforts at a very high level, both in terms of the conversations that the Secretary-General has been having and the work of his high-level delegation that has been visiting first Lebanon and now Israel, to also deal with various parties and get the firing on both sides to cease.
Question: But, I meant more in the terms of intercepting Hizbollah attempts to fire rockets. Have there been any incidents of that, and what is the proximity of some of the firing? Are they right under the peacekeepers themselves?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have any details on where the firing is coming from. Certainly, UNIFIL has been maintaining its positions and has been reporting on this, but, as you know, because of the aerial bombardment, as Mr. Jean-Marie Guéhenno reported last week, their ability to move around has been restricted. And, there have remained some problems in the freedom of movement of UNIFIL.
Question: Have there been attempts by Hizbollah to use their proximity as a shield of sorts to fire rockets?
Associate Spokesman: I am not aware of anything of the sort.
Question: Two quick questions. One is, are there any UNIFIL personnel among those you plan to evacuate?
Associate Spokesman: I am not aware of any plans to evacuate UNIFIL and, at this stage, the basic thing to say is that we intend to keep up UNIFIL’s activities. We have a press release from UNIFIL with some more information on the counter, if you want that.
Question: Secondly, basically, Olmert told the UN team today that there would be no ceasefire. Do you see this as a rejection of the Annan plan?
Associate Spokesman: We are continuing with our talks, and the team headed by Mr. Nambiar described the conversations with Mr. Olmert as useful, and we are continuing to try and build on this and see whether we can get a cessation of hostilities. And, we’ll keep up with that effort.
Question: To follow up on Masood’s question, you mentioned Mr. Annan’s contacts in the region –- you did not mention any contacts with President Bush. Has the Secretary-General discussed the strategy with President Bush and what does he think of President Bush’s preferred solution to the Middle East problem?
Associate Spokesman: In terms of your second comment, I imagine you are talking about those reported comments, which we are not going to have any comment on. All sides are trying to deal with the ways to end this horrific toll on civilians in the Middle East, and we’ve been encountering cooperation from all parties, including outside countries like the United States. In terms of whether the Secretary-General spoke with President Bush, as a matter of fact, President Bush and the Secretary-General were both part of a working luncheon yesterday, in St. Petersburg at the Group of Eight, during which a lot of these issues of the Middle East were discussed. So yes, the last time he saw President Bush was, in fact, just yesterday.
Question: So, he was part of the same event…
Associate Spokesman: There was no separate bilateral meeting with President Bush, but they were part of a larger meeting.
Question: Was there any exchange of conversations between the two of them?
Associate Spokesman: I would imagine that they had some sort of exchange, yes, but they were part of a wider exchange at that luncheon, some of which you clearly have already heard about.
Question: No, but no information of a real bilateral.
Associate Spokesman: There was no separate bilateral meeting.
Question: I was thinking about the evacuation of people, given that the Israelis attacking indiscriminately -– do you give coordinates to the Israelis when you are evacuating somebody not to attack at that point in time?
Associate Spokesman: We’ve been providing information to all relevant parties, in terms of making sure that the travel of all our personnel is secure.
Question: Can you confirm whether the UN mission actually met with members of Hizbollah while they were in Lebanon?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have any confirmation of that, no.
Question: Do you have any knowledge at all whether they were trying to meet Hizbollah?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have any confirmation of that.
Yes, Mr. Abbadi.
Question: You indicated that Mr. Nambiar said that the discussions with the Prime Minister of Israel and other leaders of that country were useful. At the same time, Mr. Nambiar in his encounter with the press, said that much work needs to be done before we arrive at any ground for optimism; much diplomatic work. Does he mean that a lot will depend on the Security Council’s work, which, as you know, is deadlocked at the present time on the question?
Associate Spokesman: Well, for now, what the team is focusing on is its work on the ground and its discussion with all the various parties there, and those discussions are continuing. There is the possibility of further discussions with the Israelis and the Lebanese and, of course, right now he should be heading to meet with the Palestinian President, as well. And the Security Council will also, of course, be involved in the process. And, as I said before, the delegation intends to talk to the Security Council, once they’ve returned to New York.
Question: For broadcast purposes –- I know there are a lot of statements from UNIFIL –- can you tell what UNIFIL does in its mission? What was its mandate and what is UNIFIL doing now while rockets are going overhead?
Associate Spokesman: UNIFIL’s mandate, as you know, is one that has existed since 1978, and it’s designed basically to deal with the need for calm in the areas in southern Lebanon. And, it does patrol southern Lebanon, and it keeps watch over the situation in the Blue Line. It’s continuing to do that, as best as it can, even despite the exchange of fire and the aerial bombardment that is going on. One of the things I pointed out before you arrived is that all of the positions in the UNIFIL area of operations are permanently occupied and maintained right now, and the work is proceeding. And they are, by the way, also proceeding with humanitarian work in coordination with the Government of Lebanon.
Question: I recall something –- I have to look it up –- I recall some confrontations between Hizbollah and UNIFIL forces in the past. Do you recall these? Can you sort of refresh us on some of these incidents? One involved video-taping of an abduction, and also, there was –- I think –- a UNIFIL soldier shot in the chest at one point. Do you know anything about that?
Associate Spokesman: There have been incidents with the armed elements, including Hizbollah, in southern Lebanon. And it’s tried to resolve it. One of the things it tries to do is make sure that, if there is any flare-up of fighting along the Blue Line, calm can be restored. In the current situation, of course, it’s been much harder to achieve. But yes, you are right, there have been other incidents, including the one you are referring to. It involves an abduction that occurred several years ago, along the Blue Line.
Question: I am sorry, just as follow-up. Were there arrangements made, or direct discussions done, with Hizbollah by UNIFIL force commanders to eliminate future incidents such as this? I mean, what sort of dialogue do they have?
Associate Spokesman: We are in constant dialogue with both the armed elements, and also with the Lebanese authorities and the Israeli authorities, to make sure that this sort of incidents doesn’t occur. There are periodic flare-ups, and UNIFIL is actually instrumental in many of them, in trying to resolve them peacefully, by dealing with all the various parties.
Question: I’m sorry, my memory of this incident is slightly different than yours, and it involved an abduction of two Israeli soldiers, which apparently the UN for years said it had no information over, and then it turned out there was a video tape, which was in possession of UNIFIL, which documented very closely how UNIFIL-painted cars were used in that abduction and showed… the UN first said there was no such video, until it miraculously was found and, then, it took a while for Israel to take possession of that video. So, it’s not that idealist… ideal, as you portray. There is a very contentious relationship between the IDF and UNIFIL.
Associate Spokesman: No, there is a working relationship between the IDF and UNIFIL. You are right, if there was a problem there, and you will recall that we investigated it here at Headquarters to find out what went wrong in terms of the sharing of information in that incident.
Question: Two questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s reported that Peter Karim, who kidnapped seven UN peacekeepers that were since released, has now been made a Colonel in the Congolese army. So, I guess my question is: was the UN deal to get the peacekeepers released -- did it envision Mr. Karim being incorporated into the Congolese army?
Associate Spokesman: Release of the Nepalese peacekeepers was unconditional. We did not try to have any conditions attached to their release. No ransom was paid and no other arrangements were made.
Question: Was the UN aware that this would be the end-game of that?
Associate Spokesman: Well, this is something that has happened afterwards. And this is, frankly, news.
Question: The reason I am asking, and I am asking you, I guess, to respond to this: given what Mr. Karim did, and other reports about it, it seems like a setup for further abuse of civilians. What’s the UN’s position on the individual who kidnapped UN peacekeepers being made part of the Congolese army? That’s my question.
Associate Spokesman: I have no specific guidance on this, and, you know, it is not my place to comment on decisions that are made by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But, at the same time, the basic point is, as a principle, we don’t believe that people who kidnap out personnel or any others are to be rewarded for their actions.
Question: Four weeks ago, MONUC said it was going to investigate a documentary on English television about the burning down of the town of Kazana with UN troops standing by -- is there any update on that?
Associate Spokesman: The latest is simply that our investigation into that is continuing. When we have something more, we will share it with you.
Question: A clarification. The Secretary-General’s mission is going on to Damascus today or tomorrow?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have anything further. They do expect, at some point, to visit Syria, but I don’t have any precise schedule on that just yet.
Question: It would have to be within the next day or so, would it not?
Associate Spokesman: It’ll probably be some time within coming days. When they left, they expected their trip to take about a week, and so any further stops would take place in the coming days.
Question: Would that mission include Terje Roed-Larsen, given that he has incurred the wrath in the past of the Syrian Government?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t really have anything to say about that. You know, the entire delegation has been travelling to all the stops.
Question: Did UNIFIL actually witness the latest abduction of the Israelis that started this entire spasm of violence?
Associate Spokesman: It didn’t witness it. It was aware of it.
Question: What are their notes? What did they say about the abduction? They didn’t physically see it this time? They didn’t videotape it this time?
Associate Spokesman: No. As far as I am aware, no, they did not physically see this. They were made aware of this, as they are of all incidents as they arise.
Question: They didn’t capture on tape [talkover]?
Associate Spokesman: That’s what your colleague just asked.
Question: But, what did the report say exactly? Was it on the record that…
Associate Spokesman: Mr. Guéhenno said in his own briefings to the Security Council last week about these incidents.
Question: Did they take any steps to try to stop the abduction -- I mean after they were seized, as I understand -- as the Israeli troops were ferried away, did they make any effort to try and intercept? Was anything physically done or was any action taken by UNIFIL?
Associate Spokesman: UNIFIL did try, last Wednesday, to do what it could to resolve the situation, but, as you are aware, the situation moved very fast and escalated very rapidly.
Question: What concrete steps were taken in the wake of the initial incident?
Associate Spokesman: They had contacts with the various parties on the ground.
Question: Did they try to intercept any [talkover].
Associate Spokesman: I don’t think I have any information to share on that.
Question: I was still watching sitcoms in ‘78. What is the mandate of UNIFIL? Is it Chapter VII? And do the UN Secretariat higher-ups believe that it’s best that an expanded UNIFIL be now arranged, or a separate new multilateral force, not UN blue hat?
Associate Spokesman: What the Secretary-General has been talking about is the need for a stabilization force that would have a different mandate, a different concept of operations and more personnel than the UN force on the ground. The specifics of what it will be are really to be determined by the Security Council. And, in terms of the mandate of UNIFIL, I don’t think it is Chapter VII, but I will have to check upstairs.
[The Associate Spokesman later confirmed that the mandate was not under Chapter VII.]
Question: With a new UN force called for, would, in that case, UNIFIL be disbanded? As UNIFIL has been totally discredited, [inaudible] should it then be just disbanded, and something else put in place?
Associate Spokesman: All the decisions about what kind of force is going to be on the ground and what UNIFIL’s fate would be on the ground are matters that would be in the hands of the Security Council. The current mandate of UNIFIL actually expires at the end of this month, and so the Security Council, as it is, would have to decide on what kind of mandate UNIFIL needs by then.
Yes, Mr. Abbadi again.
Question: Mr. Nambiar, as you said, has made concrete proposals to the Prime Minister of Lebanon and also to the Prime Minister of Israel. Has Mr. Nambiar consulted the members of the Council, before making those proposals? Did he get general agreement of the main members of the Council?
Associate Spokesman: These proposals are being worked out as these discussions proceed, and the Security Council will also be brought into this, once Mr. Nambiar is able to come back and talk to them.
Question: What kind of time frame does the Secretary-General envision for getting that force on the ground?
Associate Spokesman: He has made it clear in his press encounters today that there is an urgent need to have a stabilization force there, so that you have the space for diplomacy, for the humanitarian work to be carried out in the region and for calm to be restored. Even more urgent than that, of course, is the need for the cessation of hostilities.
Question: Days, weeks or months?
Associate Spokesman: As soon as it can be achieved. As soon as practicable.
Question: Is it correct that the mission will be going back to Lebanon after the current talks with the Palestinian leadership and, if so, is that something we should read as a positive sign?
Associate Spokesman: What Mr. Nambiar said when he left Lebanon was that, after his talks in Israel, it may be the case that they go back to Lebanon.
Question: I mean, you must know from the guys on the ground if they are going back to Beirut.
Associate Spokesman: Their schedule is extremely fluid. Honestly, it’s been changing very rapidly. I wouldn’t conjecture just yet. As soon as I find out, we’ll try and relay what that is.
Question: In that configuration that is needed to put a quick end to hostilities and put in place this stabilization force, which, by the way, as I understand, is different than peacekeeping, because there is no peace to keep. Is that why you call it stabilization force?
Associate Spokesman: It’s called a stabilization force, because it would be there to stabilize the situation.
Question: But, in that configuration, how does the Secretary-General envision implementing the part of 1559 that calls for the disarming of militias? I mean, it’s clear that Hizbollah, in the aftermath of the quick end to hostilities, will not be encouraged to lay down its arms.
Associate Spokesman: Well, again, not to be repetitive, but the way the stabilization force would work, ultimately, is something that would have to be determined by the…
You are not really supposed to have your cell phone on.
Associate Spokesman: But anyway, the details of the stabilization force need to be worked out by the Security Council and, of course, the Security Council is also seized of the issues of the implementation of resolution 1559, so all of that lies in their hands.
Question: A lot of tough questions have been thrown at you about UNIFIL. Is there a way that we could get their representative here in this room, so that we can through some [inaudible] get Guéhenno.
Associate Spokesman: Well, Mr. Guéhenno is in Brussels for the Sudan issue. We will see whether we can get somebody to talk about the work UNIFIL does, but, also, I believe we are trying to have just a nice one- or two-page fact sheet about the work UNIFIL does.
Question: Someone we can ask tough questions to and find out what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t. It’s not fair to throw some of this at you, because you are not there. So, if we can get someone in here, as soon as tomorrow, it would be very helpful.
Associate Spokesman: Well, someone else who is here is also, by logic, not there, but sure, we’ll try.
Question: Do you have anything on the work of the Iran resolution?
Associate Spokesman: Nothing further on that. You might want to be in touch with the ambassadors on the Security Council to see what they have to say.
Question: Do we understand from your answer that the members of the Security Council are not at all aware of the concrete proposals that Mr. Nambiar is making to the leaders?
Associate Spokesman: They were apprised a little bit of the work that Mr. Nambiar is doing in the briefings that have been given to them by Mr. Gambari. In fact, the last such briefing by Ibrahim Gambari to the Security Council was just yesterday. But, in terms of the specifics, like I said, the specifics are very delicate and we are not talking much about that. I believe the Security Council will get more information about that, once the team is back in New York.
Question: In the UN Geneva briefing earlier today, Mr. [José] Diaz of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, described a report released by UNMIS, saying that the human rights situation in Darfur had not improved, even in light of the Darfur Peace Agreement. I’ve seen the Secretary-General’s speech in Brussels and the Q&A that was passed out. Has he addressed this finding by UNMIS?
Associate Spokesman: The Secretary-General has repeatedly spoken about this, and, certainly, if you look at the speech that he has made to the pledging conference today, he also talks a lot about the needs of the people in Darfur. And, I would like to highlight what he says: “What must not happen, but at present is happening much too much, is reversion to violence.” And, he says that this must stop immediately. And that’s in the speech upstairs.
Question: Do you have any readout on the pledging conference?
Associate Spokesman: Well, the pledging conference is still going on. My colleague, Marie Okabe, is there. If she has some further information to provide, we’ll squawk it, if it happens.
Question: Just one other person we would be asking to come in would be a representative of the OIOS, and that has not happened.
Associate Spokesman: We’ve put that request to them, and we are waiting to see when they can do that.
Question: The key to resolving the crisis initially seems to get the two Israeli soldiers that have been abducted to be released. And to do that, the mission needs to speak to Hizbollah. Is that not the case?
Associate Spokesman: We are in touch with a variety of parties, both on the ground and, like I said, regional leaders and leaders with influence, trying to get the situation resolved and to get these soldiers released.
Question: Not including Hizbollah then.
Associate Spokesman: Like I said, we are in touch with a variety of parties on the ground.
Question: One last question about the mission again. You said their schedule is fairly fluid, but isn’t it… don’t they have a certain amount of urgency, given that the Security Council has suspended action until they come back and give it a briefing? Thursday was the date when that was…
Associate Spokesman: Well, there is a sense of urgency, certainly, but they will meet with whoever they need to meet on the ground first, and then come back. But…
Question: Are they planning to be back in time for Thursday meeting?
Associate Spokesman: I can’t give a date like Thursday. Like I said, when they left, they thought it would be about a week, and the latest, when I checked with the team about a couple of hours ago, indicates still that the likeliest time for them to return is at the end of this week.
And with that, thanks. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record